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Enhanced learning

Lab suite renovations mean many ways to learn for anatomy students

Student Life

By Terri Coles

More varied learning experiences and more highly engaged medical learners.

Four people stand in front of and interact with a virtual dissection table that is stood up on its end.

That’s the result of a year-and-a-half of renovations in the anatomy lab suite in Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine.

The suite, including its ventilation system, was renovated over three phases in 2020 and 2021, in compliance with pandemic restrictions in place at the time.

“The result is a medical education offering more variety in how students learn and engage with anatomy,” said Dr. Trish Cousins, the faculty’s manager of medical laboratories. “I do see a more excited group, especially in undergraduate medicine.”

The hands-on learning lab is expected to improve learner retention of anatomical information, said Dr. Cousins.

“It’s a more complete and varied learning experience.”

Renovations and upgrades

The renovation of the anatomy lab space began due to a ventilation issue, Dr. Cousins says.

Because the space is on Eastern Health property, Memorial received capital funding from the health authority to finance the installation of a new HVAC unit and ducting for the multidisciplinary labs, the anatomy labs and the histology labs.

The renovated HVAC system ensures complete turnover of evacuated and return of 100 per cent fresh air into the lab spaces.

These improvements are facilitating a varied medical curriculum delivery.

“You can visualize and virtually manipulate almost everything you would do with a cadaver.” — Dr. Trish Cousins

The Point of Care Ultrasound Program now boasts 12 new ultrasound machines. The Faculty of Medicine now has the highest ultrasound capacity in the country for teaching purposes; the machines are the same ones learners will use during their clerkships and residencies.

A virtual dissection table, the Anatomage, is the only one located east of Quebec.

“The table has renderings of four different cadavers that are in 3D space, in addition to other pathology- and histology-related applications,” Dr. Cousins said. “You can visualize and virtually manipulate almost everything you would do with a cadaver.”

The Anatomage table, which has a touch screen and operates somewhat like a gigantic smartphone, adds a technological element that resonates with the students, she added.

Student benefits

Students’ ability to again make wet specimens complements the tactile education they receive via the bones and plastic models Body Works collection.

“Having those specimens here is such a privilege,” said Dr. Janna M. Andronowski, a Faculty of Medicine assistant professor of biomedical sciences and undergraduate medical education anatomy lead, of the Body Works samples.

In the foreground, plastinated body parts including a head and brain. In the background, a silver anatomy table in a lab space.
One of the renovated lab spaces in the anatomy lab suite at the Faculty of Medicine, with plastinated organs and body parts.
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong

The collection came to Memorial thanks to Dr. Shakti Chandra, professor emerita in the Faculty of Medicine, who did a sabbatical in Germany with the developer of the plastination technique used to preserve bodies and organs.

Having wet anatomical specimens available again expands what instructors can do, says Dr. Andronowski, such as her graduate-level human anatomy course, previously unavailable at Memorial.

Varied education

The Faculty of Medicine took formal repossession of the lab suites on Sept. 30.

The renovated space supports the faculty’s undergraduate, postgraduate and graduate programs. Students in the Faculty of Nursing, School of Pharmacy, Centre for Nursing Studies and the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation also use the facility.

Learners can engage with wet specimens from previous dissections and make new ones as specimens become available.

Thanks to these improvements, anatomy education at Memorial incorporates different learning techniques and, therefore, different ways of learning.

“Everyone doesn’t learn anatomy in the same way,” said Dr. Andronowski. “There’s so many ways to study it.”

Students have already shared that the enhancements help them practise collaboration skills and to appreciate the complexity of the human body and complexity between different bodies.

Also, working with cadavers requires composure and respect that they say will benefit them throughout their medical careers, students told Dr. Andronowski.

The labs also support public outreach work. The space recently hosted a Let’s Talk Science event, and there are plans for Shad Canada visits. Bone kits and a bone collection are used by students and during public outreach events.

Anatomical giving

The renovated anatomy suite also supports various preservation methods for Memorial’s Anatomical Gift Program.

The Faculty of Medicine has capacity for up to 12 donors at once.

“We’re actively accepting donors that are appropriate for our purposes,” said Dr. Cousins.

The public can learn more about the Anatomical Gift Program, including donor acceptance and exclusion factors online.

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